The Cause of Truth
May 10, 2009
In Experiencing God Day-by-Day, Henry Blackaby quotes John 8:32 which says You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Then he adds:
God's truth never restricts you; it always sets you free! Are you discouraged? Is there a sense of bondage in a particular area of your life? A lack of victory over a certain sin? A harmful addiction? It is possible that you do not yet understand a truth about God that can release you.
If you feel powerless to meet the challenges before you, take encouragement from the promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If you are defeated by circumstance, hold on to the truth of Romans 8:28 that God can work your most difficult situation into His good. If you are enslaved to a particular sin, work the truth of 1 John 1:9 into your life, which promises that if you confess your sin, God is faithful to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. All of these truths await the Holy Spirit's implementation into your life.
It is one thing to know about the truth. It is yet another thing to experience the truth of God being worked out in your life. God's truth will have no effect upon you unless you accept it and believe it. Perhaps you have already read and heard accounts of God working mightily in the lives of others. But have you allowed God to implement those truths into your life? What truth about God would you like to be experiencing in your life? Ask Him to implement that truth into your life today.
Our message this morning is based on one verse in John, chapter 18 – verse 37. It’s a powerful testimony of why God came in bodily from to this earth. Let’s turn to it know and study it together. Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Very closely joined to that declaration of why Jesus came is another declaration – why this gospel was written. Flip forward to chapter twenty. At the end of this chapter is one verse which sums up John’s reason for writing his gospel: but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:31)
The purpose of all that is written in the Gospel of John is to bring people to trust Christ as God's Son and thus give them eternal life. Therefore this morning my goal, too, is that those here who do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God might be drawn to Jesus by the power of God the Father working through his Word, and that everyone might leave this place today loving the truth of Christ more deeply and that they would also be assured of their eternal life.
And let me preface what I have to say with a warning so as to awaken you to the seriousness of listening to the Word of God. When Jesus spoke and no one believed, John explains their unbelief in John 12:38–40 by quoting Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10”: "Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore, they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart and turn for me to heal them." It’s a sad thing to turn to God for what you can get out of Him.
There is another passage in Isaiah that helps explain how God blinds the eyes and hardens the heart of those who will not believe. It is Isaiah 64:7, where the prophet laments, "There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities." Therefore, the way God blinds and hardens is by withdrawing from the person's life and leaving him to his sin. Have you been blinded and hardened by your sin? Only when we see our sin will we give ourselves to God. He deserves all the glory not only for providing a way of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ, but also for effectually applying that salvation to our lives by continually drawing us closer to Christ in faith. "No one can come to me," Jesus said, "unless the Father who sent me draws him . . . No one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father" (John 6:44, 65). God in His omniscience knows in advance who will respond and who will remain indifferent.
So the warning is this: Believers, give God all the credit for drawing you into the kingdom of Christ, and let the truth of Christ stir you up to greater reliance on him; do not callously turn from lost sheep for you had to be carried into the fold yourself. Unbelievers, give heed to the Word of God and pray that God might open your eyes and soften your heart, lest you be found blind and hardened and without hope. Listen, because God has spoken these things that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing you will have life in his name.
End of the warning. Let’s turn back now to the text that laid hold on me for this Sunday, John 18:37. Here, several hours before his death, Jesus makes a statement about his birth which I want us to ponder. Jesus and Pontius Pilate are together in the Roman praetorium, and Pilate is trying to get Jesus to say something that will show him worthy of crucifixion. Backup to Verse 33 where Pilate asks: "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus' answer to this question is what hooked me on this text. Now look at verse 36 and 37. Jesus says:
"My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world." Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."
This would be a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus' life on earth, not the beginning. The uniqueness of his birth is implied; the purpose of his birth is given; and the pre-condition of that purpose is mentioned. The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The purpose of his birth was to bear witness to the truth: "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world: to bear witness to the truth." And the precondition of that purpose, the thing that enables you and I to agree that Jesus testifies to the truth is that you and I are "of the truth." "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." Let's look at each of these three: His uniqueness, His purpose, and the precondition more closely now.
First then, the uniqueness of his birth. "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world." The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born. There is a great mystery here. Sometimes in quiet pensive moments, I look at my children and observe their uniqueness and their personalities, and then I would think of a time when they never existed. Do you ever reflect on the great mystery of where your children’s spirits came from? Before conception, there was no child, no spirit; and then, in the womb God gave them a spirit. Or did you think, you did? We know how flesh and blood grows by cell replication. We can watch this miracle happen under a microscope. But no one has ever seen a spirit being grown, your soul being grown. The souls your children have will go right on existing when their bodies decompose in the grave. Once they were not, but now they are and will be forever and ever. All I know is that God created the personhood, the souls of my children, out of nothing because I know we can’t create souls. This is a great mystery. So often we think we created our children, don’t we?
But this is not what happened at Jesus' birth. The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person, not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus existed before he was born as a man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new soul, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old soul. Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
The origin of the Messiah who appeared in Bethlehem is from eternity. Therefore, the mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater miracle —namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from ancient days." He was not merely born, as John 18:37 says; he came into the world. Listen to how Jesus puts it in John 8:56–59. He says to the Jews:
"Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad." The Jews then said to him, "You are not fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." So they took up stones to throw at him. Why? Jesus said He was God – the great I AM of Exodus 3:14 "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
Christ was before Abraham, indeed before all creation. Listen to John in chapter 1, verse 1: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (And don't let any Jehovah's Witness convince you that the proper translation is "the Word was a God." The argument that they use is not grammatically correct, and it flies in the face of the rest of John's witness; for example, Thomas' confession, "My Lord and my God." Almost all scholars of antiquity, agree that John meant to say that the pre-existent Christ was God.) Verse 2: "He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him. And without him was not anything made that was made." Christ himself was not a creature, but was involved in creating all that was created. Verse 14 says: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." Christ existed before Abraham, indeed, before all creation because he was himself one with the creator God.
The apostle Paul teaches the same general truth in Philippians 2:5–8:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He was God in the flesh.
Before he was born in the likeness of men, he had the form of God, he was equal with God. He was God! And the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, whose name we don't know, began his letter with the same truth in different words. He said,
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Who created the world? Jesus created the world. Sounds to me like something only God can do! Right? He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.(Neb 1:1-3) Upholding the universe by His words! That, too sounds like something only God can do, doesn’t it?
These passages have helped me to draw a sketch in my mind of how the Son and the Father are one and yet different within the Trinity. I can conceive in my mind, though it stretches me to the limit, a Being who never had a beginning. And further, I can imagine that this God has always had his own image of his greatness and moral beauty. The advantage of such a picture is, in my mind, that it helps me see that the Son, Jesus, who is the very image and glory of God, is indeed begotten by the Father and yet is not created. There never was a time when God the Father did not have Jesus with Him - this perfect, real, and living image of himself. They are co-eternal. The Son is eternally begotten, not created. Enough!
I won't push the picture any further. Perhaps we have already crossed over the biblical bounds into speculation. But I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of your faith in your sleep and who yawn through my messages — that among you something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder, the mystery, of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power. You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God. O God, how dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to your glory and your story! How often have I had to repent and say, "God, I am sorry that the stories of men have stirred my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story." The space thrillers of our day should humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of creating some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ. When Jesus said, "For this I have come into the world," he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read or seen on TV or in theatres.
O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon myself and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God. One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And whether with terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder, how we ever lived so long with such a Christ, a domesticated, harmless Christ. These things are spoken this morning that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.
The second phrase of our text in John 18:37 gives the purpose of Christ's birth: "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth." The connection between this and what I have said about the amazing incarnation is that the Christ who came into the world to bear witness to the truth is God, and no one can more reliably present the truth about Himself than God. For God is the author of all truth and more profoundly He wills to make it known to you and me.
The God and Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and the one and only God, and there is none besides them. They are threatened by no one. Even Satan, the archenemy, is completely subordinate with his bounds fixed: God allows him to sift us, as Luke 22:31 says, to strengthen us. Check out the story of Satan in Job, chapter one, verse twelve where God limits Satan. The Lord never tries to destroy our faith, but rather to prove it and test it. This is not a cruel experiment. God knows that suffering develops faith, and leads to blessing when our response is godly. Our suffering as Job’s, can benefit others. Satan may be seeking to work evil, but God is using it for good. But never forget, we are all a product of the fall, and our “adversary” knows our every weakness. But, the attempts of the evil one to oppose God’s plans are futile. In the infinite wisdom of God’s will, every event, “good or bad”, ultimately will serve His purposes. Never, never, never give the devil credit for having as much power as God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Satan was defeated at the cross by Jesus. Satan is Beelezebub – Lord of the flies. And like we deal with pesky flies – we have the fly swatter of all fly swatters – Jesus! Amen? Amen! Focus you attention on the victor – Jesus. He has no fault, no weakness, no deceit. Jesus is so sovereign, so perfect and so glorious that the truth will always bring Him honor. Therefore, God is committed to revealing the truth because he wills to be known and glorified for who he really is – our Creator and Redeemer.
And how better to reveal the truth about God that we might glorify and love him, than to send the Son, the very image and reflection of God, into the world? One time Thomas said to Jesus,
"Lord, we don't know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me. If you had known me you would have known my Father; henceforth you know him and have seen him." And Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father."(Jn 14:5-9) And Jesus is saying that to us today. “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Jesus is the truth because he is the image of the true God. He is the way to the Father because as 1 John 2:23 says, "No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also." You can't have the Father if you reject the Son. If your heart does not go out in love to Jesus, then you cannot say that we know God. And that would mean that there is no life in you. Because Jesus says in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
there are two wonderful things implied in the statement, "I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth." One is that in revealing God, the origin of all truth, Jesus glorified his Father. This is exactly what he says in his prayer in John 17:4, "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do." The work God gave him to do includes testifying to the truth, and in doing that God was shown to be very glorious; sovereign in his freedom, marvelous in his power, and beautiful in his moral perfections, especially his mercy to us sinners. You and me! Here today because Jesus bore witness to the truth!
The other wonderful thing implied in Christ's testifying to the truth is eternal life. If, as Jesus said in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, to know You, the only true God," The purpose of Jesus coming is to give us eternal life. Which is what John 3:17 says: "God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
Not everyone hears the truth of Christ to God. Not everyone believes. Which brings us to the third part of our John 18:37 text: "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." He does not mean that only a certain people come within the sound of his voice. He means, among those who are within the sound of his voice, only some hear his words as truth. Only some believe and give glory to God and gain eternal life. And this group he describes as those who are "of the truth." What does this mean?
You recall the question Pilate asked Jesus in John 18:33, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord or did others say this to you about me?" What matters in the interchange with Pilate is not that his question be answered but that the root of his question be exposed. Jesus asks Pilate, does your question about who I am come from a true hunger in your heart? Is there a real soul thirst in you that you are seeking to genuinely satisfy? Are you longing for the truth and yearning to find it? Or are you like so many others: mouthing the words that others have put into your head? Are you just a second-hander, who only knows to ask the questions others have taught you? Do you care in yourself whether I am King? Are you an actor, Pilate or are you waiting to be "of the truth"?
I think to be "of the truth" means to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10, 12), to hunger God’s will and rejoice in it (1 Corinthians 13:6), and to be humbly surrendered to following God’s will no matter where it leads. Jesus said in John 7:17, "If any man's will is to do God's will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God." The will of God is simply an expression of truth. Therefore, Jesus is saying to Pilate: "If your will is humble enough to follow truth, you will hear and love the words of truth.
And who are these people who are open and humble enough to hear and love the words of Christ? They are his sheep. Jesus says in John 10:26, 27, "You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me." To be "of the truth" means to belong to Christ's flock. Or to put it still another way, Jesus says in John 8:47, "He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." So are you "of the truth" ? Are you “of God?” Is God at work within you enabling you to renounce our own private, proud will and to love and come to the truth. Jesus said, No one comes to me, to the truth, unless it is granted to him by the Father (John 6:65).
So, the sum of John 18:37 is this: Jesus Christ existed before he was born—indeed, from all eternity, as the perfect reflection of God's glory and exact image of his nature. Therefore, he was perfectly suited to come into the world and bear witness to the truth that we might know God, glorify him through faith, and gain eternal life. But even though he came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), nevertheless,this is the judgment, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness (and falsehood) rather than light (and truth) because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true (he who is "of the truth") comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought by God. (John 3:19–21)
O, that everyone here would prove to be "of the truth" by coming to the light.
At the beginning of my message, I stated my goal this morning was that all who hear this message might be drawn to Jesus, might believe He is God, and that no one would leave here this day without assurance of his/her eternal life. I urge you: CONSIDER CHRIST – your future depends on it! If you have any doubts as to where you will spend eternity, please seek me out this week, and we will seek out together He who came so you might have life, and have it abundantly.